Shade settles in to tell a story. She smiles shyly at you as she seats herself on a table in the shadows. She takes a breath to gather her thoughts, pushes her hair back out of her face and begins. Her voice is low but carries clearly as she speaks.
FeysalŪs story really begins with Tivarrus. You may or may not know him. He is the present captain of the Altene company the Gray Swans. The Gray Swans. You may not know, unless you are Altene, The Swans are much respected for their eminent standing as fighters, known for their bravery, fierceness and honor.
Shade smiles slightly, her eyes warm and fond.
Tivarrus first came to Iridine as a young man. He spoke almost no common, only Altene. Tivarrus was a well-made young man, tall and broad and strong...which is only natural considering he had been accepted into the Gray Swans.
A small group, Tivarrus and a small handful of others had been sent to escort a merchant and his very pregnant wife back to Iridine. The party sent was small, because the job was an easy one, and no one anticipated any trouble. But the party was attacked by a band of black clad Altene warriors...'
The black-clad ones, as you who are Altene must know... were÷ KŪkvoratir, specifically, those known as Nightdevils. I mean no disrespect to you who many be good Altenes, but this is the way of it.
The small band of Altenes, mostly unseasoned younger ones, was no match for a trained company of the Nightdevils.
Tivarrus fled the fighting and made his way to the city here. He asked for help and many warriors went with him, so also went healers. When they reached the scene, the merchant was dead, the guards were dead, the Altene escort was dead. Only the wife still lived, and she was in labor.
Now those of you who ARE Altene must know how odd it is for them to have left a survivor.
The Nightdevils are not known for their kindness to women or children. Or indeed to anyone. The healers were hard pressed to deliver the child safely, but they did, a baby boy.
The mother and child and Tivarrus came to Iridine which is where I met him. I thought him a very nice man, personable and pleasant.
Tivarrus was deeply ashamed of having failed in his duty. He felt that somehow he ought to have defeated the attackers. He did not contact his captain, as we all assumed he would. He did not return to Altene, as we also assumed. But worse, staying in the city, he failed to seek out any of the new friends he had made. Instead, he drifted deeper into the shadows of Iridine, until at last, he found himself in the hands of a cult of Ravan. They were delighted to receive him.
They welcomed him with sleep deprivation, and drugged food and drink when they fed him at all.
We knew nothing of this, nothing until Feysal came to Iridine . He did not come alone, he came with a small company of hand-picked fighters. He was angry as only an Altene captain can be when one of his green youths go missing.
I do not mean to upset anyone... But the Nightdevils are very much a part of life here in Iridine and some of us know them by face and name. I mean no insult to Altenes in good standing by saying so. And I freely state the Nightdevils have earned their reputation for... wickedness.
Shade hesitates over the use of the word ŽwickednessŪ, but shakes her head and goes on.
But÷ to continue, we were shocked when Feysal arrived demanding word of Tivarrus. We all thought he'd gone back to Altene. So we scattered through the city until we learned where he had gone.
A Nightdevil sought me out and gave the message.. Tivarrus was in a hidden room in a warehouse on the southwest side of the city.
We all went
Shade folds her hands together.
There was a false wall and we found the way to trigger it free then we descended.
We found a small chamber with an altar to Ravan. The room was full of brutes and prostitutes and other worshippers.... and Tivarrus
The altar was stained in blood and other things ... the room reeked of incense and felt foul beyond description. They attacked us, those who were not chanting. We had no choice but to fight,. I was glad of the Altenes with us, they are indeed formidable fighters.
And when the fighting was done÷ Poor Tivarrus crouched in a corner÷ trembling and half mad, and knowing none of his Altene brothers
The altar was spoiled by Antilles Pernanum and Niamh Basheer who cleaned it in fire. While they did that, I sang to Tivarrus, coaxing him until he would take my hand.
Then we fled that place, all of us together.
By the time we got back here.. Tivarrus had begun to remember. He was willing to go with Feysal back to Altene.
We thought the matter ended.
Shade sighs quietly and says, žAgain we were wrong.'
It was only a few months... but Feysal returned.
And now he was intent on vengeance.
I do not pretend to understand the Altene mind÷ But Feysal seemed to think his honor had been compromised by Tivarrus being taken by the cult. Feysal's notion was to infiltrate the cult and betray them from within. I will not bother to point out that an honor-bound Altene knows as much of deception as an infant in arms. And I will not bore you with the discussion around his stupid and ill-conceived plan. But despite strong advice to the contrary, including advice that someone more used to deception go, Feysal went.
The cult took Feysal in quite gladly.
He was strong, and capable of total concentration.
And as they had done with Tivarrus, they did with him. They drugged him and broke his sleep and starved him, all to bring his will under their control... let me say, Payne's control.
Feysal weakened, but he did not forget his purpose...
As soon as he could he slipped away to give warning. But no one recognized him, there was little trace of the proud Altene warrior. He was ragged and reeked. None of the honorable warriors in the city would speak to him, since he looked like a beggar.
Here, I must admit, Feysal and I parted with harsh words. I am not a warrior÷ And I think honor is a man's luxury, and has no place in a practical woman's life. Feysal found my position abhorrent.. and I found his naive and stupid.
We did not agree and parted coldly. But when he came seeking help, I recognized him. And since we had agreed to help him, assuming he survived...
I fed him clean water and undrugged food... and listened as he told me of life in the cult. Life there was hard, they were never allowed to sleep a night through, and they were pushed to the limits of their endurance. Payne and the others watched them constantly, and on the few occasions when they were fed, the food was drugged.
Every day, every hour he could feel them trying to steal his will, to make him a tool for them to use. The cult planned to open a portal through the Veil allowing Ravan to come through and stand on the land. Feysal was not sure when. He said he was closely watched.
He said he would do his best to escape the cult and give us a closer warning. Feysal dared not stay longer, so he took himself off and slunk back to the cult.
It was several days before I saw him and then the news was grave. The cult had the time set, and needed little to do their worst. They had a plan, to rip the Veil asunder, and to steal certain artifacts on loan to Iridine and held in the Library.
The plan to rip the Veil... which is the barrier between the living and the dead÷That plan was doomed.
The cult could not have known the Veil had been reinforced... Two living souls had voluntarily been sewn into its very fabric.
The veil did not part.
And the assault to take a sacred amulet and a book of magic runes loaned from the Aestivan league also failed, because we were warned, and fighters held the library safe.
But we had no time to enjoy our success.
Moments later, rats boiled up out of the sewers. And we heard a scream of unbearable agony.
The whole city heard... and we could not imagine what it was.
People searched and finally in the sewer.. they found the portal as you see it now.
Feysal had been punished for his betrayal. He could barely speak and his every breath was agonizing to watch. But he told us was set as the living gateway between our realm and Ravan's. Not into the wholeness of RavanŪs realm, for we had prevented that. But still, he was prisoned there, helpless and in torment.
And there he remains. I promised him, I would do what I could to free him... but I have found nothing as yet.
Shade sighs softly and looks around. She slips from the table and departs the room quietly.